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A perfect fit

The food bank's Grace Taylor and Marlin Martin (front) take a break with volunteers David Adams (back, left) and Henry Heuer.

Providence Seaside

Providence Seaside provided $3,515,000 in community benefits in 2010, including $3,399,000 in free or reduced-cost care to patients in need.

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When preschool children tour the Clatsop Community Action Regional Food Bank's new distribution center, what seems to impress them the most isn't the food-laden shelves rising toward the building's 22-foot apex. Nor is it the big walk-in freezer, or the bright kitchen/classroom where grown-ups can learn to prepare nutritious meals, or the ample yard that someday will grow fresh food.

Really, what seems to impress the kids most is getting the tiny red apples - some of the "irregularly sized" produce donated by grocery stores and producers - that fit perfectly into little hands.

Marlin Martin, Clatsop Community Action's food program developer, smiles when he sees the reactions. Still, he knows that four out of 10 county residents who rely on free emergency food are children. The need for the food bank's services, he says, has grown to "overwhelming."

Last fall, Providence Seaside Hospital helped sponsor Clatsop Community Action's "Coastal Harvest of Giving" fundraising dinner, which netted more than $60,000 toward the cost of the new distribution center.

"Now we're just so excited about the possibilities of what we can do to curb some of the hunger issues we have here in Clatsop County," Marlin says.

Opened in October 2010, the food bank's nearly 11,000-square-foot distribution center in Warrenton nearly triples the size of the ramshackle former warehouse. The building's modern features improve efficiencies in processing and supplying nutritious food for emergency pantries, hot-meal sites, shelters and other programs feeding people in need.

From cans of chicken noodle soup to crisp apples, the food bank is providing more than 1 million pounds of food a year for hungry people. And that's impressive - to people tall and small.